Do You Know Your Genre?

List Your Book in the Correct Genre!

The Key to Being Discovered

You wouldn’t look for oranges in the apple bin at a store, would you? So, making sure your novel is listed in its correct genre is the way for your book to be “found”.

Let’s take a look at your choice of genres:

             First off, is it fiction or non-fiction? Let’s say your book is “fiction”, but did you realize there are two kinds of fiction? Yes!

Commercial vs. Literary Fiction

              Commercial fiction can be romance, women’s fiction, mystery, crime, thriller, science fiction and fantasy as well as young adult. All of this is sometimes called “mainstream fiction.”

             Literary Fiction usually sells in the low numbers and is not always profitable, They may get wide readership, however, if the book receives major rewards or is well-reviewed.

             Most writers don’t choose to write either one or the other but are drawn to write what they like and it simply becomes one or the other.

             There is a third category of fiction called “leisure reading” for children, which is what usually happens outside of school requirements. Writers of such books tend to have a lot of leeway in vocabulary and how a story is told. Usually, these works need to target an age range and are very short, perhaps 2,000 words in length.

             Should you want to write a children’s book for use as a school text, for instance, you would have to meet specific requirements and guidelines of educational publishers.

             But, because most writers would like to earn something from their book writing efforts, let’s look at the varieties of commercial fiction:

            Romance is the best-selling genre by far exceeding $1 billion in sales annually according to an article by Jane Friedman, a publishing industry expert and educator. This genre is most often read by women and is considered the easiest way to break “into the business”. In romance novels, there are two common goals: it must be a love story and have a happy ending. Other than that, the story line can be diverse and cover dozens of subgenres such a historical, paranormal or suspense. They have two formats: series, or single-title romances.

            Mystery, crime and thriller fiction is the second biggest genre, about half the size of the romance market.

            A mystery begins with a death or crime, the central character usually solves the crime and can be procedural or hardboiled police work. The reader tries to figure out who the villain is along the way.

            A thriller usually deals with a catastrophe about to happen that will affect many people. The hero may prevent the catastrophe and the people usually know who the bad guy is from the beginning. Thrillers are more popular than mysteries at this present time according to Jane Friedman.

            A science fiction or fantasy genre is difficult to define but is speculation about future events and tends to be based on some scientific fact. These can include history, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction, dystropias, or time-travel stories. The difference between science fiction and fantasy is that fantasy can include elements of the supernatural.

            An historical novel is usually set in a recognizable period of history and can be part of a number of subgenre levels: romance, thriller, crime novel.

           Inspirational or religious fiction emphasizes Christian morals or life lessons. This market is somewhere between romance and mystery-thriller genres in popularity.

           The last genre of large note is the young adult (YA) market. This one features teenage protagonists and is experiencing large growth today. Its most popular subgenres are science fiction and fantasy (or referred to as “paranormal” in the YA market).

            A mainstream or commercial novel is any book that sells well, whether commercial or literary. It also tends to address the contemporary realities of daily life.

            The sum total to all this is to decide which genre your novel falls under and to put your novel in the correct marketplace because that is where your readers will easily find you.

List of Most Genres


Mainstream fiction – Mainstream fiction is a generalized genre that encompasses many different types of imaginative stories appealing across broad audiences.

Contemporary fiction – Contemporary fiction is, technically, any fiction of the time we are in. Believability is one of its cornerstones, meaning stories that attempt to recreate reality.

Women’s fiction – Any fiction story targeted for women. Usually include a strong female protagonist.

Urban fiction – Tells the story of life in the inner-city, generally with a gritty, dark tone, shining a light on the harsh realities of life in the city, including hard subjects such as drug use, gangs, sex, poverty, and violence.

Poetry – Text that uses rhythm and rhyme to evoke emotion and meaning. Includes sub-genres such as narrative, dramatic, epic, lyric, and verse.

Science fiction – The cohesiveness of the genre is not plot driven but includes any story that explores the effects of science and technology on civilization. Often take place in the future.

Fantasy – An umbrella genre for books that are set in alternate realities, include unrealistic places, and have intricate and involved plots.

Historical fiction – The genre takes a fictional story and sets it in a true historical setting. The amount of blending, or real history and fictional invention, can vary.

Western – Usually identified by the book’s setting, such as the Old West. Often include war, quests, and romance.

Adventure – Quick-paced stories that involve a series of actions outside the usual happenings for the protagonist.

Mystery – Centers around solving crime and the time leading up to the critical event, causing anxiety that things won’t resolve in time and the villain’s evil plan will work out.

Cozy mystery – A sub-genre of the mystery genre that involves many of the same aspects but is set in quaint little towns that experience a murder or other mysterious happening with less intensity.

Suspense – Similar to Mystery but focuses on events after a crime has been committed, such as figuring out who did it.

Thriller – Stories similar to mysteries but with huge stakes, such as the end of humanity. They are often full of apprehension, creepiness, and violence. Sub-genres include psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, and legal thrillers.

Horror – Thriller novels with elements of serial killers and explicit murder scenes. Stories may be extremely suspenseful or can contain gory or graphic violence.

Romance – The main plot involves two individuals falling in love and building (or struggling to build) a lasting relationship.

Erotica – Any genre can become an erotic genre, as long as it puts an emphasis on explicit sex scenes. Sub-genres include women’s erotica, erotic fantasy, erotic memoirs, and erotic romance.

Young adult/Teen – Any fiction story targeted for teens or young adults. Usually, the protagonist is in the same age group as the target audience.

Graphic novels – A comic book with a complete, and single story.


Autobiography -The author’s retelling of his or her life with a focus on facts and entire span of his or her life, rather than particular, important moments.

Memoir – A collection of personal memories related to specific moments, themes, or experiences in the author’s life, told from the perspective of the author.

Historical – Written about some time or event in the past.

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